What are AHAs?

8 incredible facts about Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs).  These are a group of plant and animal-derived acids used in a variety of skincare products.  These include daily anti-aging products, such as serums, toners, and creams, as well as occasional concentrated treatments via chemical peels.

There are seven types of AHAs commonly used in products available throughout the skincare industry.

These include:

  • citric acid (from citrus fruits)
  • glycolic acid (from sugar cane)
  • hydroxycaproic acid (from royal jelly)
  • hydroxycaprylic acid (from animals)
  • lactic acid (from lactose or other carbohydrates)
  • malic acid (from fruits)
  • tartaric acid (from grapes)

Uses and efficiency

Out of all the AHAs available, glycolic and lactic acids are the most promising.  These two AHAs are also less likely to cause irritation.

AHAs are primarily used to exfoliate. However, they can also help:

  • promote collagen and blood flow
  • correct discoloration from scars and age spots
  • improve appearance of surface lines and wrinkles
  • prevent acne breakouts
  • brighten your complexion
  • increase product absorption

Below are 8 incredible facts on how AHA’s can help your skin feel and look amazing.

They help exfoliate

AHA’s are primarily used to exfoliate your skin.  In fact, this is the foundation for all of the other benefits AHA’s offer.  Exfoliation refers to a process where the skin cells on the surface shed off.  This helps remove dead skin cells but also makes way for new skin cell generation.

As you age, your natural skin cell cycle slows down, which can make dead skin cells build up.  When you have too many dead skin cells, they can accumulate and make your complexion look dull.

Dead skin cell accumulation can also enhance other underlying skin issues, such as:

  • wrinkles
  • age spots
  • acne

Still, not all AHAs have the same exfoliating power.  The amount of exfoliation is determined by the type of AHA you use.  As a rule of thumb, the more AHAs contained in a product, the more powerful the exfoliating effects.


When these acids exfoliate your skin, dead skin cells are broken down.

The new skin revealed beneath is brighter and more radiant. AHAs with glycolic acid can help break down skin cell accumulation, while products with citric acid can brighten your skin even further.


They help promote collagen production

Collagen is a protein rich fibre that helps keep your skin plump and smooth.  As you age, these fibres break down.  Sun damage may also accelerate collagen destruction.  This can result in sallow, sagging skin.

Collagen itself is in the middle layer of your skin (dermis).  When the upper layer (epidermis) is removed, products such as AHAs can go to work on the dermis. AHAs may help promote collagen production by destroying old collagen fibres to make way for new ones.


They help reduce the appearance of surface lines and wrinkles

AHAs are known for their anti-aging effects and surface lines are no exception.

Still, it’s important to remember that AHAs work for surface lines and wrinkles only, not deeper wrinkles.  Professional fillers from a doctor, as well as other procedures such as laser resurfacing, are the only methods that work for deep wrinkles.


They promote blood flow to skin

AHAs have anti-inflammatory properties that can help promote blood flow to the skin.

This can help correct pale, dull complexions.  Proper blood flow also ensures that skin cells get the necessary nutrients needed via oxygen rich red blood cells.


They help minimise and correct discoloration

Your risk for skin discoloration increases with age.  For example, flat brown spots, known as age spots (lentigines), may develop as a result of sun exposure. They tend to develop on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun most often, such as your chest, hands, and face.

Discoloration may also result from:

  • melasma
  • post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
  • acne scars

AHAs promote skin cell turnover.  New skin cells are evenly pigmented.  In theory, long-term use of AHAs may reduce skin discoloration by encouraging the old, discolored skin cells to turn over.


They help treat and prevent acne

You may be familiar with benzoyl peroxide and other acne-fighting ingredients for stubborn blemishes.  AHA’s may also help treat and prevent recurring acne.

Acne pimples occur when your pores are clogged with a combination of dead skin cells, oil (sebum), and bacteria.  Exfoliating with AHAs can help loosen and remove the clog.  Continued use may also prevent future clogs from forming.

AHA’s may also reduce the size of enlarged pores, which are commonly seen in acne-prone skin.  Skin cell turnover from exfoliating glycolic and lactic acids can even reduce acne scars.

Some acne products also contain other AHAs, such as citric and malic acids, to help soothe inflamed skin.

And AHAs aren’t just for your face!  You can use AHA products on other acne-prone areas, including your back and chest.

It can take two to three months before you start to see significant acne improvements. However, it is important to be patient while the products work to relieve acne over time.  You also need to use the products consistently.  It is no good skipping daily treatments, as it makes it take longer for the ingredients to work.


They help increase product absorption

In addition to their own distinct benefits, AHAs can make your existing products work better by increasing their absorption into the skin.

For example, if you have too many dead skin cells, your daily moisturiser just sits on top without hydrating your new skin cells underneath.  AHAs like glycolic acid can break through this layer of dead skin cells, enabling your moisturiser to hydrate your new skin cells more effectively.


How much AHA is needed?

Daily use products, such as serum, toners, and moisturisers contain lower AHA concentrations.

For example, a serum or a toner might have a 5 percent AHA concentration.  Highly concentrated products, such as glycolic acid peels, are used less frequently to reduce your risk of side effects.


Are side effects possible?

If you have never used AHAs before, you may experience minor side effects while your skin adjusts to the product.

Temporary side effects may include:

  • burning
  • itching
  • blisters
  • dermatitis (eczema)

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also consult their doctor before use.  If your doctor says it’s okay for you to use AHA products, consider something targeted to pregnancy.


Lots of love

I hope these 8 incredible facts have given you some valuable information.  This is all said with love, I know many people have different opinions and that is absolutely fine.  The biggest piece of advice I always say is:

‘Listen to your skin!!’

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.  These should not cause any damage to your skin, if used correctly for YOUR skin!

Any questions, just ask…

Much love.

Louisa Ashforth Signature